Schenectady County officials are seeking landowners interested in joining the county’s agricultural district program, which offers incentives for keeping land in farming. Landowners will be able to request inclusion in the district between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, starting a process that will lead to a single vote on all the applications by the county Legislature.
“Schenectady County is committed to our agricultural industry and actively encourages local farmers and growers to request inclusion in the agricultural district,” said Anthony Jasenski, chairman of the Schenectady County Legislature. “The Agricultural District program helps us foster a better business environment for local farms and maintain open space in Schenectady County.”
The goal of the program is to encourage the continued use of farmland for agricultural production. Crop farms, small-animal operations, wood lots and horse farms are among the types of agriculture that qualify.
The ag district program is run by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, but it is administered at the county level. Landowners are given a time frame each year to apply for inclusion in the program.
"Last year, we added three parcels," said Ray Gillen, the county's commissioner of economic development and planning. “We get some good activity. It's a tool that has helped preserve small farms.”
The agricultural district program provides landowners with incentives - most commonly in the form of reduced property tax assessments for a multi-year period. The districts also provide protection against the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses and against complaints about common farming practices such as the spreading of manure as a fertilizer.
The Schenectady County ag district consists of 336 parcels comprising 19,028 acres, or about 13 percent of the county’s total land.
All of the towns outside the city of Schenectady have some land in the agricultural district. The majority of the district - 57 percent of its total acreage - is in Duanesburg. Princetown has 17 percent, Glenville 15 percent, Rotterdam 11 percent, and Niskayuna, 1 percent.
Any applications to the program will be reviewed by the county’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. Inclusion is also subject to a public hearing and a vote by the county Legislature.
More information on applying can be obtained from the County Department of Economic Development and Planning at 518-386-2225, ext. 226.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.